ATI Eyefinity on six screens: first look review
Our previous encounter with Eyefinity came courtesy of a Chillblast machine which came with three monitors and enough gaming grunt to stretch the latest titles across its 5,760 x 1,080 native resolution.
ATI’s much-rumoured Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition boasts six DisplayPort outputs - although it's a standard HD 5870 under the hood - and ATI visited the PC Pro Lab yesterday to demonstrate gaming at a mighty resolution of 5,760 x 2,160.
We were pleased to see the addition of three monitors didn’t complicate the setup procedure; as before, it’s a case of loading up Catalyst Control Centre, telling the program that you’d like to use Eyefinity, and telling the driver how your panels are positioned.
Once that’s done, you’re ready to go – and the initial effect is still very impressive. The amount of desktop space on offer is truly vast, and the main game we’ve tested on Eyefinity 6 – Race Driver: GRID –looked fantastic. The peripheral vision afforded by the increased space both horizontally and vertically meant for a far more immersive experience – we could see our side windows getting damaged, for instance – and the card was more than powerful enough to run the game on its highest settings across the huge resolution.
Eyefinity, though, still isn’t without problems – and, in some cases, the increased number of monitors actually makes things worse.
Take ATI’s bezel correction, which has recently been introduced in the Eyefinity driver and works by rendering the image that should be behind the bezels before blocking it out. The setup process is charmingly old-school - triangles appear across two monitors and we used an A4 sheet of paper and some on-screen arrows to line the shape up across the two panels – but, in practise, the feature returned mix results.
In-game action was the main beneficiary, with GRID’s various cars and circuits matching up perfectly across the system’s six screens. When compared to our previous encounter with Eyefinity – where objects were uncomfortably skewed across multiple screens – it’s a vast improvement.
The bezel correction tweak also improves the position of several HUD elements. One of our major qualms of the original setup was that maps, objectives and speedometers were position at the far edges of the screens, which made them near-impossible to view amid a busy Crysis firefight or slick Burnout: Paradise race. Now, though, HUD elements are kept closer to the centre of the image and were able to be seen without physically turning our heads.
This new feature doesn’t handle text, tables and menus particularly well, however. Even before the game was booted, we’d spotted problems: every Windows dialogue box, GRID’s installation wizard and the Steam login screen appeared directly in the middle of the image and, consequently, had to be dragged out of the way before they could be used.
These problems were more serious in-game. As our photographs illustrate, the bezels cut off half of the lap counter and numerous menu screens: we couldn’t properly view our race results, points allocations or many of GRID’s navigation screens. The bezels themselves also ran straight across the horizon, which proved more off-putting than the three-screen system and will surely prove off-putting in most games.
There’s no doubt that Eyefinity is an exciting and potentially superb technology: transforming six screens into one giant monitor opens up huge resolutions and could make virtually every game more immersive and, in some cases, easier to play.
At the moment, though, the impressive initial effect is marred by practical problems. Once the bezel correction is perfected and monitors with thinner bezels are available then it could, conceivably, be worth the cash. Until then, a three-screen Eyefinity rig – or a projector – are both more viable.